March Madness Flash Fiction Series: Joe Donahue
TODAY’S BREW: The Vanilla of France
Today’s awesomeness brought to you by Beer Boy Joe Donahue. Coincidentally, if anyone is looking for a sort of personal chef, but more of a personal beer brewer, you can find him http://t.co/JMI6HZF0LX. Now READ.
Click, click, click, my fingers snap the top of a metal lighter open and closed in perfect syncopation with the charred remains of a clock hanging from the wall. A few pieces of metal have fused with the stone surface and are the only things keeping the clock from crashing to the ground. Minute hand and hour hand hang lifeless from the middle of the frame, but the second hand continues to tick and tock as though it is the heart, and the only thing keeping the clock alive.
A man sits on the other side of a glass frame. He just stares and laughs. Mockingly, he flips the top of a lighter as well. It’s distracting. It breaks my focus. It shatters my rhythm, but I don’t stop, and neither does he.
The air is filled with the stench of burnt flesh and accelerant. It burns the hairs in my nose. It fries my senses. Yet all I can manage to think about is the man on the other side of the glass. Caught in a standstill, we unrelentingly stare at each other.
“You did all of this didn’t you? You filled the room with kerosene, you killed all of these people!” The words escape from my mouth. Reason vacates my body. It was evident that he wasn’t going to be the first to break the silence so that left me no other option. He mouths my words as I talk, and I can feel rage building up in my very core.
“No, you did.” He leans backwards in his chair and the pool of kerosene splashes beneath his feet.
“You know damned well that I didn’t do this. I don’t even know how I got here.” I can feel all ability to think logically escaping my brain. The man continues to talk to me. The kerosene on the floor speaks to me. The very room itself seems to have a voice. Each and every charred figure on the floor screams out to me for retribution.
“The lighter is in your hand.”
Blinding anger saturates my field of vision as I stand up and smash the chair against the ground.
“Careful my friend. You could create a spark that way. This whole room would go up in flame. I don’t think either of us want that.” He walks closer, reaches out, as though he’s going to extend his arm through the very glass and grab me by the collar.
“Stop mocking me! Stop it!” I don’t say the words as much as they are yanked from my body with the strength of gale force winds. “Stop it! Stop it! Stop it!”
“I can see that you don’t like the truth. It makes sense. Most people don’t like to recognize the truth about themselves. Take a moment to walk around the room. Explore, let your amazing handiwork soak in. Let it soak in like kerosene soaks into and drenches the clothes of your targets, your prey.”
The room is vast and cold. Every inch of the stone floor is covered with a thin layer of kerosene. The thick cloud of vapors emanating from the floor is palpable and I can taste it on my tongue. It tastes like death and desperation. I yearn for nothing more than to escape from the control that it seems to hold over me.
“Oh, but to escape from this room would be to escape from your very self. Is that something you are really willing or able to do?”
“How did you…”
“Know what you were thinking? I guess that is really a question you should be asking yourself now isn’t it?”
Splash, sploosh, splash, sploosh, my body propels itself towards the glass as though I have no control over my actions. It’s like I’m a doll and some invisible marionette is pulling my strings. We both run towards the glass. Fate is controlling us, and one way or another fate is going to provide us the answer we both crave so strongly.
Crack, my ankle clips against the metal chair on the floor and my body propels towards the glass like a javelin through the air. My cranium cracks against the dense glass like a tomato against a mallet. Blood trickles down from my forehead and turns everything in my line of vision into a fresh shade of scarlet red.
The glass is now cracked and I can see the man on the other side hunched over and clenching his head. Blood rolls over his burnt and leathery fingers. Blisters and bubbles coerce the flow like mountains shape the tide of a tsunami.
The man sputters and spits blood on the now cleanly fractured glass. “So what exactly do you hope to accomplish from all of this?” His upper lip curls to reveal cracked and blood stained teeth.
“I suppose I intend to end this.” I resume flicking the lighter between my fingers in perfect time with the clock on the wall.
“Well, I don’t really believe that’s possible.”
“I do.” I can feel my pulse racing. The beat of my heart pounds and forms an unconventional cadence with the rhythm of the clock and the lighter. “See, you’re not going to be able to stop me. You’re on the other side of that glass. There’s nothing you can do now.”
“Now be rational.” A look of terror engulfs his face. “You don’t want to go and do something stupid do you? We can both get out of this like nothing ever happened. We can keep going. We’re good at this. It’s what we do.” The man pauses and taps the lighter against his forehead. “It’s what you do.”
“Not any more.” Reality comes crashing down on me with the weight of a thousand boulders. I can see the burning flesh. I can hear the screams. It all comes rushing back. It terrifies me. I clasp my hands, blood stained tears stream down my face and drip into the kerosene pool on the floor. They create a scarlet swirl around my feet.
Flick, the lighter ignites between my fingers. The clock stops. Sound evacuates the room as the lighter falls to the ground, turning the very air itself into a canvas of flame. The final moment arrives and silence takes residence in my soul.